The Kriegsmarine's Finest Two Hours
|Scharnhorst firing at extreme range against HMS Glorious - notice how elevated her guns are.|
|A destroyer leads Scharnhorst, followed by Gneisenau, during the February 1942 Operation Cerberus.|
|The underlying reason behind Operation Juno was to save this man, General Eduard Dietl, and his troops from defeat at Narvik.|
The ObjectiveSince battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz were not ready, the Kriegsmarine sent its most reliable pocket battleships (really heavy cruisers): Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. They were accompanied by heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Z20 Karl Galster, Z10 Hans Lody, Z15 Erich Steinbrinck, and Z7 Hermann Schoemann. Any surface sortie was dangerous, but the Germans had gotten away with it previously and this was a rare chance to use the surface ships to achieve a strategic purpose, as opposed to mere commerce raiding as with the Admiral Graf Spee.
|Admiral Wilhelm Marschall.|
Hunting Down StragglersMarschall had plenty of opportunities. With the Allies pulling out of Narvik, the sea lanes between there and Scapa Flow were crowded with Royal Navy vessels. First, heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper came upon troop ship Orama, tanker Oil Pioneer and minesweeping trawler Juniper - and dispatched all three. The Orama was a modern (1924) Orient Line passenger liner which had been impressed into Royal Navy service. She went to the bottom about 300 miles west of Narvik, but thankfully she was not full of troops and only 19 men lost their lives. Admiral Hipper took aboard 280 prisoners. To the Kriegsmarine's credit, there was an accompanying hospital ship, the Atlantis, which obeyed the rules of war by not radioing its position - and the Admiral Hipper let her go. After this, Admiral Marschall detached the Admiral Hipper with a couple of destroyers to make port in Trondheim.
|British soldiers evacuating from Norway on 8 June 1940. That may be the Orama in the distance.|
|HMS Glorious was a converted Courageous-class cruiser, a veteran of World War I. She had been part of the RN operation to locate the Admiral Graf Spee in November/December 1939.|
The KillThe Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau spotted HMS Glorious and her escorts about 180-200 miles west of Norway at around 16:30. Admiral Marschall opened fire at maximum range. On the third salvo, six minutes after targeting the aircraft fire, Scharnhorst incredibly made a hit on the aircraft carrier's flight deck with an 11-inch shell at 24 km. Hits at such a range ar devastating because the shells come down almost vertically and plunge through the decks. The hit was on the forward part of the hangar, and there were no planes on deck. This damage prevented the Glorious from launching any aircraft and essentially sealed her fate.
|HMS Glorious in April 1940.|
|This is a picture taken from the Scharnhorst of Gneisenau firing on HMS Glorious at extreme range. Again, note the elevation of the guns.|
|Lieutenant D'Oyly-Hughes preparing for a secret - and successful - operation in France, August 1915.|
|The memorial in Morden, Dorset, to the parish's war dead, including the Captain of HMS Glorious, Captain Guy D'Oyly Hughes. Contributed by Vernon M.|
After the battle, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau headed for Trondheim themselves to rejoin Admiral Hipper. The Gneisenau was in bad shape, with flooding of 2,500 long tons and her aft turret out of action, but the Scharnhorst was untouched. In the long run, from a strategic sense, the damage to Gneisenau was annoying but not debilitating.
|This photo shows Gneisenau's major damage clearly on the starboard side. The torpedo pierced both sides of the bow. Temporary repairs are visible.|
|Damage to Gneisenau on the port side from the torpedo hit.|
|HMS Glorious in her final moments.|
|This is the memorial at Trondenes Historical Centre in Harstad, Norway to HMS Glorious and her two escorts, sunk on June 8, 1940, and resulting in the loss of over 1500 lives. Photo by Peter Ashton.|